4 MARCH 2018
How do you run a business with a baby?
The short answer- like every other mum who juggles work and family life.
The long answer… it’s really hard work! The cons of running your own business and having a baby- you don’t really get any maternity leave. Even if you’re not actually at work your mind never leaves it; you’re still responsible for your employees, the cash flow, the safeguarding, winning new contracts, making sure everyone is happy and able to do their job. When you are at work you are attending meetings and trying to get things done whilst feeding baby, rocking baby to sleep, playing and praying that baby doesn’t kick off when you’re in 1:1 meetings and constantly feeling like you’re not being a good mum or a good counsellor/ manager/ director. You’re also relying on your staff to look after her which means that they’re not able to do their normal work. The flip side- everyone loves having a baby in the office and having a snuggle, it’s a pleasant distraction from what can sometimes be a very hard job but also a sweet reminder of what life really can be all about.
Most people assume that as a director you can just take off time when you want, swan in and swan out when it suits and sometimes I am sure it definitely looks like that. I tend not to start work until lunchtime, I have been blessed with a beautiful sleepy baby that doesn’t wake up until 8.30am has her breakfast, a little play and then ideally likes to have another nap before we leave the house. What this does mean is that I try and pack in as much work into the afternoon as possible and sometimes end up working late, a lot of my work is done outside of the office. I am doubly blessed to have family that will have Freya three days a week if needed. This allows me to fill my contractual duties I have with other businesses, some of which are not very keen on baby going to work with me and from a business perspective I understand that and also it just wouldn’t be practical when counselling.
However, there have been times when I have had to take Freya to some of the most important meetings of my career which have led to securing some of my largest contracts, worth tens of thousands of pounds. I’ve been giving her a bottle, keeping her entertained with whatever is at hand and trying not to let my anxiety rise knowing that I have to keep my professionalism in tact and meet the needs and demands of my baby in equal measure.
I could give up work and have someone step into my shoes and focus all of my attention on Freya but working and SM forms part of my identity and if I give this up I am not being the best mum I can be to Freya. I really do want to have my cake and eat it and why shouldn’t more people and not just women?
There is also the very real issue of money. I like my standard of living and having Freya has definitely made a dint on my disposable income, I just couldn’t afford not to work (and I am fortunate I don’t have to pay for childcare) so I have to balance the guilt, the judgement of others and the reality of taking Freya to work or leaving her with family and potentially missing out on some of those important milestones. On another note I am SM, my energy, my ethos fuels what we’re all about and having a baby naturally meant that I had to take my eye off the ball however with that has come problems. As an organisation with 50 people working within it, it occasionally falls into the trap of doing what every other organisation does because that’s easy. I never set up SM to follow the stifling, unkind, uncaring and disingenuous falseness that befalls some health and social care organisations. I wanted to create a working environment where people were free to express who they are, feel valued and be part of a team making a tangible change in society and I have come to realise through the kindness of staff feedback that if my energy doesn’t drive that then SM may as well be like any other organisation.
So for now whilst Freya is little I will continue to balance my love of work, my love of her and on occasion making the tough decisions to either turn down contracts that don’t fit in with my view of working with a baby or leaving her with family to ensure the longevity of SM. Some days I’ll get it right and some days I’ll get it wrong and I am OK with both.
2 MAY 2016
IS SUCCESS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MENTAL WELL BEING?
I was involved in a conversation recently where the topic started off innocently as the amount of homework that a teen now gets- up to four hours a day. School doesn’t finish until 4pm and then there are extra curricula clubs to go to, some not finishing until 8.30pm at night but the homework level stays the same. The topic quickly turned to the very real idea that unless teens are constantly working; either at school, on homework or extra curricula activities then they were not using their time effectively. They were not going to become successful in their lives (success in this instance having a high profile job). There was no value at all for doing nothing; for watching mindless TV, or reading trashy magazines- this was not going to get the child the dream job or make the parents proud. My argument was that we all need that time, we need a balance of hard work and down time. Our worth is not measured in how many hours a day we are working, or even how successful our parents think we should be, in fact our worth has nothing to do with anyone else at all, we are all worthy as we are, whether we get/ got A’s or E’s in our exams. I find it sad that as the next generation some of our children and teens are being conditioned to believe that the only value they have to offer the world is in their academic performance. We are so much more than that. And from my own experience money and success do not automatically equate to happiness and high self esteem. The pressure put on young people from schools, parents and society is creating a generation where anxiety and depression is the norm. However, it is not suprising to hear that the happier we are in what we do we naturally become more efficient and more successful whether that is working as a lawyer or a gardener.
As someone that doesn’t have children I am coming at it from a purely professional perspective (and a human perspective), I get that, I don’t have the same pressures from society on me as a parent or that overwhelming urge to give my children the opportunities I didn’t have. What I do see though are those teens in the counselling room, sometimes I am a last resort, the usual disciplining, piling on more pressure no longer works because the young person is so depressed that they just cannot engage or respond to the pressures that they did before. Some parents expect that counselling will ‘make’ their child see that they were ‘right’- that often doesn’t happen, what happens is children recognise that it’s OK to have a different opinion or outlook on life from their parents. Some of us respond well to pressure, it drives us, it pushes us forward but as adults we are more able to say no when it becomes too much, to voice what’s important to us and to seek support (although not always). Not all teens are able to do that, is it not all of our responsibility to encourage self care at a young age to prevent young people developing mental health problems? And how do young people learn the best? Through example- they are naturally observant and mould their behaviour on what they can see with their own eyes. You could argue that counsellors then create a conflict in the teen, as someone that encourages individual acceptance and values self care it can be in direct contrast to those parents or teachers that value other things in life. I see my role as a counsellor working with teens to amalgamate the two; that it’s OK to value self care and it’s OK to value hard work for instance- they both have value in this world. One client I have worked with voiced a thought that has stayed with me- ‘I think you’re trying to get me to accept myself whereas I am trying really hard to change myself’. This was a client that wanted to quit college, felt suicidal, isolated herself from friends and family and was putting her safety at risk by going home with guys she didn’t know, fulfilling an emotional need with a physical need. By the end of therapy, after only eleven sessions, the girl before me was someone I had not seen before, a confident, emotionally comfortable (in the sense of valuing all of her emotions) person who was able to see her own worth in this world without comparing herself to others and feeling the need to please others. This acceptance of herself made her much more efficient at college in the sense of attendance and getting caught up on her work, she has decided to study for another two years, she no longer feels her only option in this world is to end her life, she is seeing friends and family on a regular basis and has naturally stopped going home with random men. What I didn’t work on in the counselling room was her academic performance, pass on to her the pressure I was under from the college to ‘fix’ her in six sessions, lecture her on going home with different guys and I didn’t feed the idea that what she was experiencing or that her behaviour was wrong. What I did do was accept her completely, the promiscuous behaviour, the suicidal thoughts, the overwhelming mix of emotion- there was never any judgement, no criticism, no telling her what she should or shouldn’t be doing (that is not to say that the very real safeguarding procedures weren’t put in place). I didn’t go into those sessions with the arrogance of knowing what was best for her, I was experiencing the thoughts and feelings that she expressed at the time she expressed them with no preconceived ideas of what I was going to ‘do’ with all that information, instead together we explored everything that she expressed. Everything had equal value, nothing was dismissed, ignored or belittled.
It is important to recognise the pressures that we all face in today’s society. Teachers are under immense pressure and that naturally feeds down onto their pupils, parents feel judged in society to parent a certain way they also want the best for their children, professionals feel they need to ‘do’ something, friends feel like bad friends if they’re not supportive, as individuals we feel under pressure if we don’t act, talk or look a certain way and the list goes on. It’s exhausting! It is easy to blame society for the way that we are but that won’t change anything, the only way things will change is when we work on ourselves, when we accept and value ourselves we naturally start to value and accept others regardless of whether we like or agree with their behaviour. And aren’t we all a part of society, do we perpetuate the pressure for whatever reason, habit perhaps? Whereas the more of us that start to speak out, as we are doing, we can change society and how it works. I believe so, look what can be achieved when society pulls together to create a movement, didn’t Martin Luther King protest against inequality and the pressures and restrictions placed on society? Don’t we want and need more mental health services that don’t focus on measurable change and ‘fixing’ but on the individual and working with them to free themselves from the expectations and pressures of society? That’s what we’re doing at SM, we have a big vision and we’re determined not to become institutionalised, conscious of not complying (and not in a rebellious way) with what’s already out there because it’s easy and it’s what people expect. We’re different, I am not saying that I know what everyone in this world needs, what I am saying is that I am open to exploring with individuals what they need and the way that SM works with individuals seems to be making very real, lasting change in so many people’s lives. There is no room for complacency, for a one size fits all approach, that’s why we’re a person centred organisation, we celebrate everything that it means to be human- the joys and the darkness, the perceived successes and the perceived failures.
12 APRIL 2016
DO YOU WANT A QUICK FIX OR A REAL FIX?
Everywhere I seem to go these days I hear from professionals and non professionals that ‘we’ want a quick fix, we demand all of the answers instantaneously. My biggest concern is that there are professionals out there telling you that you can ‘fix’ yourself almost immediately if you follow ‘their’ way of working, spend hundreds of £’s or by only working on the presenting, often superficial symptoms. SM is built on the vision that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. I don’t want to give you a ‘quick fix’, as much as I love spending time with my clients (in a professional sense) I truly believe that if we work on getting to the root of the problem you won’t need to come back to me every six months. We won’t be glossing over the underlying issues to satisfy societies need for you to fix yourself. What you will be doing is getting to the very raw, often painful core of your being, finding out who you truly are. By doing that you are building resilience for future challenges, you are being empowered to recognise that you have a choice over everything in your life, even if those choices don’t present themselves initially. You are shaking off the pressures of society, parents, bosses etc in favour of showing the world who you really are and I can guarantee you are much better at being the real you than you are the person that everyone else expects you to be.
By working the way that we do at SM we’re not pressurising you to have achieved something by a certain time frame, we’re not scoring you every session to see how you’re feeling, we’re asking you and what you don’t say sometimes tells the counsellor more about you than what you’re verbalising. We’re connecting with you on a human level, that’s what creates change, not regular measuring of very subjective emotions. I don’t know about you but one day I can feel like crap and the next day I am walking on air, what happens if you’re being measured on a good day? Moods fluctuate, that’s healthy, we want to encourage healthy not tell you that you’re having unhealthy, irrational thoughts. All thoughts are of equal value, they are part of you, we might not like them all of the time but that’s what makes us human, that’s what makes us unique. By exploring all parts of ourselves emotionally can we only truly draw the dots together.
I encourage people to sit with their emotions; anger, sadness, guilt, shame, happiness, joy, love. There is no judgement, we all have those feelings, like most of us have two arms and two legs, why do we want to hide those from the world, from ourselves, it’s who we are? But there is a problem it seems with that. I recently did some training for an organisation and part of that training was about self care, recognising our own worth and not being afraid to say ‘no’ and ask for extra support if needed. Well, this went down like a lead balloon and I realised that my idealistic vision did not work in the ‘real’ world. But why? The reason was that massive institutions can be rather oppressive, they don’t have time for their staff to start engaging with their emotions because it gets messy, it can be hard to pack back into that teeny weeny little box of control. Well guess what? People are less productive when they are being forced to be machines and not humans, by encouraging a work society of put up and shut up, overwhelming pressure and poor working environments in the sense of staff wellbeing. We are not only having a detrimental impact on individuals health but also on society in general when we accept those kind of working environments because we feel we have no choice if we want to pay the bills.
Now I do get the pressures of business and delivering a service vs supporting team members however, I don’t expect those that work with me to not be human, to paper over the cracks so that they can return to work as soon as possible. I want a fully functioning, healthy (with a range of emotions) person on my team that understands self care and taking as long as they need, with whatever support they need to get back to a place where they feel able to come back. I would want the same, I want to feel valued as an individual for who I am, not just what I can contribute to my workplace. I encourage counselling and widening our experience of self for as much about self discovery as I do for exploring any specific problems or concerns, this is what creates healthy individuals in and out of the workplace- understanding who we are and being given the space to do that without feeling pressured to rush the process to suit the needs of others.
I have been counselling for a long time now, I know from my clients and my own experience that uncovering those painful parts of our self takes courage. But I have never had a client turn round and say to me that they wish they hadn’t gone there, that they wished they had continued to skim the surface, gloss over the ‘real’ problems, continue to meet the expectations of others or that they have become less productive at work (they may have left in favour of a different environment but surely that leaves space for someone that suits that former environment better- win, win?). As human beings we tend not to like change, there’s fear and uncertainty in change. If I cut off my arm, I have no real idea how painful it’s going to be, I have no real idea what I will look like, how the world will view me or what if anything will grow in its place, but I can imagine! Counselling is no different, if I metaphorically cut out my anxiety for instance I don’t know who I will become, if my husband will still love me or if something even worse might replace it but there’s also a chance that there will be a liberating freedom, a new clarity in my world but am I prepared to take the risk? I wonder what kind of a society we would find ourselves in then; a place where we value ourselves and value others, offer guidance rather than criticism, responsive to others needs but also knowing that when we need it people are emotionally available to support us with what we need also rather than offering me a plaster to cover my cracks.
8 APRIL 2016
DO ANY OF US FEEL LIKE WE REALLY FIT IN? AND DOES IT MATTER?
Probably like a lot of people I never felt that I really fitted in anywhere, I was one of those that could flit between different social groups. Changing from extrovert to introvert depending on my surroundings, how comfortable I felt and the people around me. Sounds ideal, like someone comfortable with who they are but I wasn’t and I’m still not on some days. It has taken me years to free myself from what other people expect of me, how I should look, think and express myself- god forbid in some circles I should have an opinion on politics, wear a low cut top, or stay true to my own beliefs and values despite them being out of the norm. So it’s perhaps not surprising that SM is the same.
SM doesn’t fit into the measurable, short term, quick fix, free services that are already well established. But it doesn’t fit into the expensive, elitist world of private psychotherapy either. SM is the bridge between the two, a new vision, challenging social norms and expectations. New creates excitement, freedom, and creativity but it also creates fear. It attracts people to actively look for areas of weakness, scrutinise and even copy and try to recreate but without the heart and soul that SM is built on.
There’s a problem with being different, personally and in business. You are either loved or hated, like Marmite I suppose. And then there’s this strange new space or feeling that’s created when passion and determination take over- a new energy that emerges to push through the pressure of living up to the lovers expectations and moving through the haters negativity. But this is tentative, one day people love the SM vision, whatever you say, how you present yourself and one day you say something too risqué, too challenging and you’re quickly punished, berated and the energy changes. The ‘problem’ with being real and authentic as a person and as a business woman is that you open yourself up to criticism, you are raw, fallible and therefore vulnerable- you are truly human. Perfectly human asking others to meet you on a human level which sounds simple but it isn’t but it should be.
Finding room in this world to express who you are, what’s important to you, what you’re passionate about shouldn’t be as difficult as it. Don’t we all want a society where we feel safe to express and explore who we are without fear or judgment or criticism? Don’t we also choose how we receive and react to such behaviour, those behaviours are also only human after all. Imagine what we can achieve together if we accept each other completely, regardless of how we present ourselves to the world. I wonder if we forgo the negativity in favour of support. We might not always find something or someone our cup of tea but being open to experiencing it/ them will offer us the opportunity to widen our minds, to experience something new, breaking down the barriers between the perceived groups in society that we believe to be different, that we don’t fit in to, that we’re excluded from for whatever reason.
Maybe we could all start with experiencing something new today, going somewhere that we don’t feel we fit in, pushing our fears and barriers a little further. Don’t you want to be a part of society that challenges social expectations and behaviours in favour of being open to experience, enjoy and know for definite what floats your boat and what you’re happy to let other people experience in more depth but without criticising or facing criticism?
Being different, unique, a perfect contradiction, human whatever you want to call it can be challenging, I know that from personal experience. But I wonder if learning to accept this completely in myself and in others will begin to create a shift in society, maybe if we try it together with kindness and willingness to experience whatever comes up we will create very real change.
7 APRIL 2016
LABELS. DO WE NEED THEM?
Do we need them? Does it help having a label of anxious or depressed or anything else? Does it change how you experience the world, how you feel on a daily basis? If I tell you that I’m anxious and have daily panic attacks what image do you have of me? Perhaps someone who is a nervous wreck, someone that can’t cope with life, maybe you feel sorry for me, you want to stop me from having those uncomfortable, embarrassing experiences. Why? That is part of who I am, having a diagnosis of anxiety does not stop the panic attacks. I sometimes felt helpless, I’ve got anxiety, medication used to mask some of the symptoms but then I needed more and more medication, I became reliant on the ‘expert’ of the GP to ‘fix’ me- I expected it. I became consumed with feeling helpless, I began to demand (in my head) better treatment, I ‘needed’ different medication, I began to limit my life in case of having a panic attack and embarrassing myself. My relationship with my husband began to be affected, he didn’t understand the label anxiety, some of my symptoms didn’t fit neatly under the term anxiety, so was I lying, was I making it all up? I was now beginning to get paranoid, my GP probably thought I was a hypochondriac with the amount of appts I made, repeating the same story that nothings working, that I’m now experiencing something else. By the end of it I was a walking multiple label; anxious, depressed, paranoid, hypochondria, migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue.
I then realised that no one really cared if I had all of those labels, what were they going to do about it, they had their own labels to deal with? Medical professionals put the labels on me because that’s their job (and there is no blame here, that’s what they’re there to do), they’ve done their bit, they’ve told me what’s wrong with me, made a diagnosis and then left me hanging with no knowledge or understanding of how the hell I was going to manage all of those labels. And I am sure that is not because they didn’t care but because their hands are tied, they are limited on what they can do in the medical model. So I made a choice, I wasn’t happy with the vision of myself that someone had created (probably a moaning minny) so I decided to forgo the medical approach to myself in favour of a more holistic approach. It was right for me to stop the medication I was on (and it may not be right for everyone so please do be careful), I decided to forgo a takeaway once a week in favour of weekly counselling, I found a herbalist paid for with what I was spending on prescriptions, a personal trainer instead of a coffee and a cake here and there (although that didn’t stop completely!), started going to yoga to feed my soul, pilates to get some girl time and ache for the rest of the week! I don’t earn a fortune, I just reprioritised buying ‘stuff’ with experiences and services. And no my anxiety hasn’t magically dissipated, I still have panic attacks on a weekly, sometimes daily basis but what I do feel more in control of is me, the choices I make, how I want to treat my body rather than feeling like someone else has to ‘fix’ me. I know exactly what is going into my body in terms of herbal medicine, I don’t need a plethora of drugs to manage the side effects of the first drug. If I’m feeling stressed or burnt out I know that it’s because I’m working too much, before I would have gone to the GP for a sick note but actually what I can see now is that although the time out was needed the problems were still there, I wasn’t in a stronger place mentally when I went back to work I was just more rested and jumped straight back into 100mph. What I needed was to learn to value myself, to say no, to communicate more effectively, all of that I learnt through counselling and not because I knew that was what I wanted to work on but because I went with an open mind about starting to explore what I was experiencing, having trust in my counsellor that there was no judgement, that she didn’t mind so much about the labels but actually what it was like for me to experience those symptoms that could be labelled as anxiety.
What I am not saying is that all labels and diagnosis are unhelpful. We do need those particularly in physical health and even in mental health. The medical model is of value, it works, it’s what we know, it provides safety, knowledge and understanding. What I want is to have more of a balance, for those that find value in labels, use them, embrace them stick with the medical model as long as you don’t become a slave to it like I used to be. I want us to start embracing a more social model in its true essence, we work together to create very real change. What I have created at SM is a creative approach to tackling the ever growing mental health crisis that we find ourselves in. We can’t rely on the government or government organisations to meet our every need (and again that is not because they don’t care about us but the very simple fact that if there are only ten beans, there’s only ten beans), as much as we’d like to and I definitely have at some points in my life. I have felt that sense of entitlement, anger and frustration when I wasn’t getting the treatment I felt I deserved. Instead now I want to choose my destiny, my health, my life rather than putting blind faith in others all of the time. I value myself enough to want all of the information on my life choices, to continue learning who I am and to have the services and opportunities to do that. We need to create that together, no one is going to give that to us.
2ND FEBRUARY 2016
TOO CONTROVERSIAL TO SAVE THE NHS?
Two years ago Jenine Butroid set out on a mission to bridge the gap between NHS CBT provisions and private psychotherapy. Making non CBT counselling and psychotherapy available to the masses by charging £5 per therapy session. Two years later her Lincoln based business, Supporting Minds, is booming with all clients paying £5 or more per session, ‘the £5 fee is a very specific amount, affordable to those on benefits and not penalising those in work’ says Jenine. ‘We encourage clients to pay more by asking them to consider three questions; how much they value themselves and the person they want to become, how much they value the time and experience of their therapist and how much they value the counselling environment that they visit each week? Most clients willingly pay more than £5, not because we force it upon them but because they are taking responsibility for their own health and value the service they are a part of’.
This is exactly what Jenine’s vision is all about- individuals taking responsibility for themselves, by doing so they feel in control of their treatment, have healthier more effective relationships, value themselves and others by recognising their worth and reducing the pressure on the already overstretched NHS services. This is what Jenine thinks will change the way we access the NHS, ‘the NHS is changing, it is no longer sustainable in its current form and it doesn’t provide us with the choice that we deserve. If we all contributed a small amount financially towards our own care; GP appointments, physiotherapy, counselling etc. then we can have more choice over our care and our health, accessing more advanced treatments and therapies’. With more money in the NHS pot from patients contributing small, unmissable amounts of their disposable cash for their own health appointments the idea is that we can afford the more specialised treatments such as protein beam therapy when we really need it.
Quite an idealistic view point expecting each individual to decide how much they value themselves and contribute accordingly for their own health by taking that step towards personal responsibility. Jenine’s vision has raised high emotions amongst some people, not least her own peers, causing her to be outcast, isolated and trolled on social media by fellow counsellors and psychotherapists who feel she is discounting the profession and taking work away from them. Some may argue that she is actively penalising those on low incomes and when people are most vulnerable by asking them to contribute financially towards their treatment. However this she argues is part of the process to valuing and recognising their own worth and as she has proved within her own business those on low incomes and experiencing chronic mental illness welcome the very personal choice of how much to contribute financially and being supported to reprioritise what is most important to them. This has given her the confidence to continue to drive this vision forward, staying true to her core values of psychotherapy not being an elitist therapy, facing adversity head on with compassion and kindness in fitting with her purest person centred approach to clients and to life. ‘All clients within Supporting Minds are treated equally regardless of whether they pay £5 or £25 per session, this is what all health care services should strive towards, reducing the gap between free/ affordable treatment and private treatment’ she states. Jenine has proved in practice within her own business that this model works, people actively embrace it and her one hundred clients a week and her team of 25 volunteer counsellors and psychotherapists have certainly bought into the vision, some even modelling their own businesses on Jenine’s vision. She sees this as a success to be praised rather than competition to be feared, ‘we all deserve to be the best versions of ourselves, whether that is achieved by coming to me or someone else, the most important person is the client’.
Jenine herself has benefitted from the current NHS model, undergoing spinal surgery in 2008 and working as a nurse in her local hospital. It is this experience and her recognition of the difficulties and challenges that she herself faced as a patient and as an NHS professional that have prompted her vision for changing the NHS. ‘The NHS needs to be valued, supported and protected, by everyone in society pulling together and showing their appreciation by contributing a fiver or more for their health appointments we can do that’ Jenine is adamant about this. ‘We live in a society where we expect something for nothing, this just isn’t sustainable, a small sector of society making small monetary contributions alone may not have an impact but if we all make small manageable contributions we can create lasting, real change where we all benefit’. A controversial viewpoint but it might just work given the opportunity and an open mind.
27TH JANUARY 2016
FROM BEING CALLED A BIMBO TO GETTING TROLLED
From being called a ‘bimbo’ to being trolled on social media, when I set up SM two years ago I never anticipated some of the challenges I would face. Running a mindful biz is so much more difficult than I ever imagined.
1) Being called a bimbo.
Probably the biggest shock was being called a blonde bimbo by someone that I very nearly went into partnership with. This triggered all of my confidence and self esteem niggles but thankfully also triggered my ‘**** you’ attitude to push me further than I ever realised was possible.
2) SM is a hobby.
Some people think I can afford not to earn any money and it doesn’t really matter if the business makes money or not because I do this as a hobby. That couldn’t be further than the truth, I wish I was a millionaire but I’m not, I accumulated a large amount of personal debt when setting up SM as I wasn’t earning any money because I ploughed my heart and soul into getting this off the ground. SM has to be successful financially otherwise it isn’t possible to continue running it.
3) I am profiting from the volunteers.
Many people ask where the client £5 notes go- they pay for the rent, electric, internet, phone etc. I also volunteer within the counselling service. The bills have to be paid somehow and if we don’t earn any money to pay them then we close. Simples.
4) Working 24/7, 365 days a year.
I thought that I would be able to manage my time, have a day off when I wanted, go on holiday when I wanted but that is definitely not the reality! I work everyday of the year doing the things people don’t realise need to be done when running a business; marketing, updating business plans, financial planning, networking etc in addition to the everyday stuff that people do see me doing.
I have experienced some incredibly painful and hurtful criticism about the SM business model, the affordable £5 fee, my personal ability to run SM, my ability as a therapist, the list is endless. I love a good debate but what I don’t understand is the way people deliver their criticisms in hurtful ways and then not being open to my responses when I explain in more detail how I see things.
I never knew that I or SM was controversial enough to experience trolling on social media when sharing some of the financial challenges in a women’s business group. I am still aghast and bemused at the cruel, intentionally hurtful and ignorant comments from these keyboard warriors.
7) Someone always knows how to do it better.
Meant with good intention but exhausting when people tell you how you should be running things, if I had the financial reserves, the energy and a large team of people I would definitely run things differently.
8) Other training providers students ‘banned’ from talking to my students.
Ridiculous and shocking but the other main counselling course provider still has a ban on their students communicating with my students for fear of… I have no idea. In addition to students from other providers not being ‘allowed’ to have counselling placements with SM because they feel we are in direct competition with them. I will never get that, if I feel someone is in competition with me I reflect on my biz and make it even better, changing and developing can only be positive.
9) Being isolated from my peers.
Disappointing considering the profession that we are in but many of my peers disagree with what I am doing because they feel I am taking work away from them by being so affordable. I’m not. People that can afford to pay over £30 an hour will still pay that, those that can’t afford £5 will still access the NHS, those that can’t wait 18 weeks on the NHS and can’t afford £30 a week come to me. This seems simple to me and saddens me that my peers feel threatened and have therefore withdrawn from even being my friend.
10) Discriminated on age.
I get this all the time, part of me was relieved turning 30 last year, hoping that I may get more respect and less cutting and hurtful comments about my age, I haven’t. I often wonder why as a society we assume that the younger we are the less idea we have about being a counsellor, running a successful biz, having an opinion on politics, literature, knowing who we are as people and recognising that we will change, grow and develop for the rest of our lives.
11) Overwhelming stress.
Running SM can be immensely stressful, the responsibility for everyone within the biz; clients, counsellors, teachers, managers, admin. Making ends meet, forgoing my salary from the teaching I do to make sure the bills get paid, wanting to provide a a high quality service, trusting in others to maintain my high standards. This list is also endless!
Despite all these challenges I wouldn’t change things for the world. I have grown immensely as a person, a therapist and a teacher whilst running SM. This is my love, my passion and part of who I am. I don’t expect these challenges to get easier and I should imagine the bigger SM gets the more challenges I will face. But with the support of my team, my hubby and my furry friends for snuggles I am hopeful that I will survive all the upcoming nervous breakdowns!
27TH JANUARY 2016
GREATEST MOMENTS RUNNING SM
Some of the greatest things about setting up SM have been more than I could have ever hoped and expected, the challenges always make way for something great from becoming comfortable with who I am to loving being the boss!
1) Realising my own strength.
I would say I always experienced low confidence and self esteem but SM has made me realise that I am good at what I do and people love my vision, this is the biggest confidence boost of all. The challenges make you realise how resilient you are and I have actually loved exploring this side of me.
2) The kindness in others.
At the times when I have felt I just can’t go on the kindness of others has always bolstered me up so that I can fight another day, a kind act, a supportive word can never be underestimated or taken for granted.
3) I have found my passion/ life purpose.
Recognising this has been a massive comfort to me, I truly feel like I am doing what I was meant to do and this encourages me to give SM my all. I can’t imagine a time without SM in my life.
4) Professional freedom.
Being able to create a mindful biz like SM that has my core values and ethics at the heart of it, working in a purely person centred way without the fear of being institutionalised or having to succumb to service pressures and meet targets. This is true freedom.
5) Creating opportunities for others.
Whether that be voluntary or paid opportunities, I love that I can support and provide a safe and supportive learning and working environment where I can learn and grow from the experiences of others.
Being able to explore my creativity through my blogs, my first book (in the pipeline), interior design of the counselling rooms, my teaching and counselling style and so many more things. This really is a dream job for expressing what I love.
7) Becoming comfortable with who I am.
One of the most precious and valuable things for me has been the opportunity to free myself from my own negative conditioning and become the person that is more like the ‘real’ me and to feel comfortable with who I am.
8) Awe inspiring people.
Meeting the most incredible, interesting, intriguing, supportive, kind and generous in spirit people that you could ever hope to meet.
9) Loving my job.
I really do love my job and getting paid from the teaching that I do within SM is a dream come true, I never truly realised just what an impact having a job you love has on your sense of happiness, purpose and other areas of your life.
10) Being the boss.
I love this so much, almost childlike giddiness at being able to wear jeans to work, taking lunch when I want, choosing who I want in my team, listening to whatever cheesy music I want in the office. I always knew I couldn’t work for anyone else and now I don’t have to I am making the most of it.
11) Courage of my convictions.
Having the confidence to say what I want- what’s important to me and SM, succeed at public speaking gigs, relish radio interviews and have a voice in my profession. It hasn’t always been like this and I am pushing myself to face the more uncomfortable challenges but with excitement and not fear.
5TH JANUARY 2016
So I’m having one of those moments that we all have where you think that you’re not good enough, can’t manage financially with the way things are going and basically starting to panic about the possibility of failing and losing it all but also the terrifying fear that you might just succeed and then where will that leave you?
When I set up SM my original biz plan was focused around getting a contract with the NHS, the golden goose, financial security for my vision, the ability to provide secure, high quality, valuable jobs and to offer individuals the therapy they really need. Two years later from that original biz plan I have a meeting this month that could make all of those dreams come true. So why am I so fearful? I am scared of failing, if I don’t get the contract what will that say about me? It will prove to all those people that didn’t and still don’t believe in me that I’m not good enough, that my head really is in the clouds. If I do succeed what will that mean? The pressure from the new contract may just tip me over the edge into complete breakdown mode, what if I can’t deliver on my vision, my promises? Then I’ll fail after all.
That little niggling imposter syndrome is creeping back in. I had convinced myself that I didn’t want the NHS contract, that I would just work my arse off to continue to fund ourselves, increasing student numbers, offering more courses, more clients etc. But I am not sure how much more I can spread myself out, I am working 24/7 for a variable salary, reliant each month on students paying on time so that I can get paid. Praying and hoping that clients pay this week, that no one cancels, hoping no unexpected bills come my way (as they have done), tearing my hair out because the colleges haven’t paid my invoices this month.
Running a mindful biz is hard work, I was not a business woman when I set SM up. I have learnt everything as I have gone along, managing cash flow, marketing, book keeping, running a training provider, running a counselling service, managing people, being solely responsible for the safeguarding of individuals, the list goes on. And as I read this back I feel overwhelmed and a little sicky!
I don’t have the answers, the solutions to ‘fix’ or change these feelings. All I can do is what I encourage my clients and students to do- feel the uncomfortable feelings, fully experience the anxieties , the lack of confidence and trust that they will pass. I just hope they do one before my NHS meeting!
28TH DECEMBER 2015
OVERCOMING NARCISSITIC ABUSE AT CHRISTMAS BY REBECCA BRITTAIN
I left him on Halloween after 13 months of love, hurt & confusion. It’s taken until now to even start to process what actually happened.
I’d like to be able to get it down to one succinct sentence, partly so when people ask ‘how’s it going with your man’ I have an answer, & partly so my brain can process it & I can take steps to move past it.
I’ve tried ‘he wasn’t very nice to me’ or ‘he put me down’ & even ‘he’s a narcissist’. But the first two seemed a bit lame & the latter requires some degree of knowledge in psychopathic personality disorders which only victims or therapists would need. So I am emptying my brain & some relevant pins on this page to see if getting it out helps to clear the fog.
I left the relationship suspicious that behind closed doors everyone was an abuser. The generalisation stemmed from the fact that at the start & from the outside in my relationship was perfect.
We were in love, we socialised together, and both had respected careers in the media, we had just signed a tenancy on our first home in the country together.
We were just like everybody else. When we first met I couldn’t wait to introduce this charming man to my friends and family. I wanted to shout from the rooftops – ‘Look what I’ve found.’ The end of the honeymoon period was a long drawn out fall of a jagged edged thorny & hateful cliff; and everything I believed about this man was unravelling before my eyes, but it wasn’t a quick ‘rip of the band aid’ unravelling. The bandages slipped and then were put back so many times that eventually-only-now I can start to see through them. I had to tell people I was wrong, but not just that I was wrong but this charming man had abused me emotionally & physically.
I’ve just unpacked the last box of my things, by unpacked I mean rootled around in in & left it until I know where I will be staying long term. I found a single Christmas decoration which I’ve hung onto a half assembled lamp & I can honestly say I think this will be the best Christmas I’ve ever had.
This year my life is my own & I have a future full of hope instead of feeling completely drained of all energy & joy, crying every day because I couldn’t avoid the broken eggshells he scattered about the house for me while he gave me the silent treatment for 3 days because I didn’t go to Specsavers for him within an hour of him asking me to.
You may say I ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ to lighten the mood but you would be wrong. Even if I’d have gone I would have been punished for some other minor discrepancy he had created for me that day. I could never. Ever. Win.
I wanted to win for us, I did try. When the arguments started I booked us into therapy. One therapist said that 4 months into a relationship is ‘not long for you to be having problems’. I argued with that therapist & found another. We discussed how we thought our communication problems stemmed from cultural differences & that maybe we could work on them. And that maybe he tells me to ‘arrange my toothbrush and flannel in a certain way or else he’ll go ape-shit-crazy until he gets stoned’ because of his time at boarding school.
I know now that you shouldn’t take an emotional abuser to a therapy session. They gain a deeper understanding of your emotions & how better to control you. Also they will take the opportunity to talk about how they FEEL to take the focus off of ‘what they THINK’ and what they THINK about is control.
My ex was very open in therapy about how he felt. I left feeling increasingly responsible for his upset.
He spoke for hours about himself & I loved to listen. I was fascinated to learn about African culture, his physical, spiritual & emotional journey to this country at 15 years old. His vision of himself as a millionaire with £700 Billion in the bank inspired me. Now I know that these things I loved were standard narcissistic traits & I feel a bit stupid.
But hey-ho. I’m still learning. If you are still unclear, like me, what a narcissist is, a Vampire may offer a good metaphor. Vampires feed on the blood of their victims to keep them strong,they don’t care about the welfare of their victim; only that their supply is hot and fresh and they will keep that living blood supply around in a sort of trance until they are done with them.
Narcissists feed on your energy, they drain you of joy and then blame you when you’re no longer fun, they seek out strong confident partners who will be able to cater to their every need, if you begin to see through them they will bring back the charm you fell for in the beginning to transfix your focus, once again, on their needs being met.
Read more of Becca’s blogs here
20TH DECEMBER 2015
For the first time in my life (30 years if you’re interested) I am doing exactly what I want to do for Christmas with my hubby. Understandably some people don’t like this break in tradition, they feel snubbed, have become passive aggressive and if my burning ears were unbearable I would be having a Van Gogh moment. But hearing how much people have ‘sacrificed’ for me and how my recent choices are selfish is something that doesn’t sit very comfortably with me. But they are right, people have sacrificed things for me and I am very grateful that they did but I never asked them to, I never expected it and why now because of their choices in the past should I be made to feel that I should make sacrifices and not do what’s important for me now?
The answer is I don’t and shock horror I don’t feel guilty about it.
We all have choices no matter how uncomfortable or difficult that might feel, we all make compromises to achieve what we want to but as soon as we feel we’re making sacrifices we’re instantly taking away our ability to choose. We feel that tightening in the chest, the lump of concrete in the stomach and that ball and chain getting heavier and heavier. Why do we do this to ourselves? And it is only us that has this effect on ourselves, we have a choice how other people make us feel, how we react to hurtful comments and exactly how we want to live our lives. Do we want to be the one that says ‘Yes’ to everyone and everything and regret most of our decisions and not enjoying the life that we have in order to please others?
What we don’t have a choice over is how other people react to our choices. But you know what, that’s OK- that shouldn’t stop us doing what we want to do. I’m here to experience life in my way, follow my dreams and I don’t feel the need to try and live the life that other people think I should. This isn’t a deliberate act of rebellion, to be hurtful or unkind- this is simply me standing within my power, being my own person, responsible for myself and all the decisions that I make that all feed my heart and soul. And really, is it not better that we are fully present, wanting to be somewhere, giving something or someone our full attention rather than being there in body but not in mind. I know who I would rather spend time with and it’s not the person who said they’d come along to something when they really don’t want to be there. So out of love and respect for others I will be there when I can be fully in the moment, enjoying and experiencing them completely, giving them my all and I hope that they have the courage to do the same.
9TH DECEMBER 2015
JENINE vs SADDAM
It’s laughable now when I look back but last week I was in floods of tears. So what’s all this about?
I can see now that fear of becoming who I really am almost sent me spiraling off track to the point where I didn’t see any value in myself or my work anymore, that I thought I was going into melt down. I imagined I was the worst kind of person; Saddam Hussein to be exact. I felt like I was being a dictator within SM, that I was so focused on SM being a purely person centered organisation and imparting my values and beliefs on those that work with me in my team that my mind conjured up one of the most tyrannical, dictorial, cruel people to compare myself with. For me this was a light bulb moment during my own counselling session, “I am a dictator” I voiced out loud as I had a vision of Saddam Hussein’s statue being pulled down and smashing into pieces on the ground. This I imagined would happen to me if I continued to breathe my values into SM, I would be cast out, judged and destroyed, people would realise that actually they didn’t like me, my vision or what I stood for after all. The fear of failure, exposure of who I really am, sharing all parts of myself with those that work with me and with the world; the insecurities, the uncomfortable parts that come with being a leader, a visionary and an idealist that I feel people will judge me for and think my head is in the clouds far too often? All of the above, I’ll take them all, in for a penny in for a pound!
Thoughts can play cruel tricks on us, even for those that are often described as balanced by others and even how I would describe myself, but I tell you, I didn’t feel very fucking balanced at this time. In fact these thoughts ruined the rest of my week and they didn’t stop there. I was also annoyed and irritated by my counsellors response of “do you think you need a break from work and your own personal counselling?”- NO!!!, what I needed was the opportunity to explore these thoughts, break down this lump of concrete in my stomach and uncover what the real fear was. I wasn’t given this opportunity and despite my initial irritations I can see now that this was part of my learning process, I needed to find someone that I truly could be myself with, someone who wasn’t afraid of me exploring shadows and exposing these to them and I can’t do that with my current counsellor. We have done some incredible work together and I am definitely a changed person for having worked with her for so long but now I am ready to explore other parts of myself that despite me mentioning and wanting to explore before I have always felt I have been led away and encouraged to look at other parts of myself. All of which needed looking at I might add but not addressing the real core point of my existence which I want to explore.
And now that I have gone to the deepest depths of my soul, conjured up the worst possible fears, compared myself to someone that couldn’t be further from who I am I can now look back and smile and think “thank fuck that’s over with!”. Along with some kind words from my husband, a giggle from someone who is now my mentor and reassurance that what I have to offer is of value, people may not always understand my logic in what I do but they seem to trust that it is coming from a place of love and compassion rather than power and control. And following and trusting in the way that I work with others and the Becoming You activities, showing myself kindness and understanding and valuing all parts of myself, even the undesirable parts or the ‘ugly bits’, only now do I accept that I truly am human. Phew, that’s a relief!
10 OCTOBER 2015
SM STRUGGLES WITH BAD APPLES
Something that continues to come into my life in painful, sometimes angry but always sad waves is not just the sense but also the explicit feedback that what I truly believe in and value is not only criticised (I love a good debate) but also judged and for me, worst of all, breeds a disingenuousness into the business.
An internal debate I have frequently and work on weekly in my own private counselling sessions (36 to date) is that I value and encourage free will and free speech but SM is my vision, my life purpose and if I can’t protect that and instill my personal values throughout the business then wtf am I doing this for? And yes some may argue that is being driven by ego and yes it probably is. But it’s also driven by innate calmness and belief that what SM offers is of value, it is what people don’t get anywhere else, if it’s not right for them then they leave it if it is then they embrace it.
And the topic that causes so much controversy- money! Of course it is. £5 is too cheap, when ‘you’ (meaning me) run such a ‘cheap’ service people don’t value it and people don’t value me (meaning them). Such sweeping statements but yet they hold so much power on so many levels. Yes there’s a level of disappointment that some would stereotype the whole human race into selfish, non valuing individuals. NEWS FLASH- people that come for counselling can be unreliable. Who hasn’t missed an appt because they may be filled with fear, shame or dare I say it just don’t like the person they’re going to see? And when you’ve missed an appt what do you do next? You may be wracked with guilt, fear of reprimand and never get in touch to ask for another. Individual therapist’s then internalise this and it triggers their own self esteem and confidence issues, I get that, it’s happened to me but all I’m asking is that you then don’t project your insecurities onto me and my whole being. Because for me that’s what SM is, an extension of me, my beautiful bits and my ugly bits. And I’d love to say ‘get your head out your arse’, people in internal conflict can’t and don’t see those around them and the effect their actions might have, if you don’t know that by now then you need to do some serious self work.
So what to do with those that don’t get the vision? Cut them out of the business (not very practical even for me), listen to their negativity and criticisms (which have a substantial effect on me- how genuine with myself am I being now?) or what? This is the internal debate, the exhaustion, the sleepless nights and dare I say it the cocktail bill?!
One thing I do know is it’s lonely, it’s lonely running SM; the responsibility for the clients, the counsellors, the students, the teachers, the bills. Ah the bills, why not start charging £20, £30 a session some would say then you wouldn’t be so stressed about the bills? But then it wouldn’t be SM would it? It wouldn’t be any different to any other organisation that excludes people that really need the support but can’t afford it or perhaps are beginning to realise that self care is so important but their uncertainty means they won’t dip their toe in to make sure because it’s too expensive. Means test people then… And how unfair is that? Why should someone that works really hard for their money have to pay more? Value is an individual thing, even those that can afford £50 a session won’t turn up if they’re not inclined to want to. I guess the conclusion I am drawing is it’s a personal choice on how much you value SM and all that it is about vs what other options are available to you elsewhere. But SM is coming more in line with it’s true self, wanting to explore more about why people want to work with us and what their feelings and personal values are in contrast or harmony to SM. Yes, I’m all for those experiencing it even if they’re unsure and if what we do isn’t for them then equally they’re not for us. And this is a respectful, mutual decision rather than a hurtful criticism where misplaced anxieties are blamed on the service, or as it stands on me and please don’t breathe your negativity into the service, it really is hard enough. And as we turn one (party poppers, hats, corks at the ready) it’s more important than ever that we stay true to our core beliefs, that we recruit the right people and support those that aren’t meant for us to move on in a kind and loving way. Either that or we boot them out the door! Yes, the criticism is hard to take, it’s exhausting but actually it has such a positive impact (after the tears, the burnout and the ‘I can’t do this’ speech). It’s reaffirmed to me that the majority of the people drawn to SM ‘get it’, they value it, they thrive in a non pushy, non controlling harmonious environment and that makes my heart sing. And we’re then able to consciously and subconsciously pass that on to our clients, that’s what makes us successful, or so I believe. It’s not the affordability, it’s the truly authentic, valuing, human service that we offer.